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Title: “Renaissance: Z is for Zeroth”
Author: [personal profile] marzipan77
Fandom: SG-1
Pairing: None
Rated: T+ for language and memories of violence
Summary: A series of fics beginning at Daniel’s descent back to Earth from the Ascended Plane. Chapter by chapter, these fics, about 1000 words each, beginning with “A”, will explore Daniel’s attempt to regain his memories, his mortal existence, and his place within the SGC and on SG-1.
Warnings: Angst/Emotional Whump/Memories of Death
Disclaimer: I don’t own Stargate, or Jack, or Daniel, or anything but my cats.
Written for the Alphabet Challenge on the Stargate Drabbles List.

Summary: It is the first bonds that are the strongest after all.

Feedback: What a journey – I am almost sad to let Daniel go. Thank you all for encouraging (prodding) me along the way.

Zeroth – definition: preceding even the first.

"That's your son." Daniel's memories spun out like twisted thread. A hard-nosed colonel, dead eyes watching him silently through a thin screen of cigarette smoke. Uniforms, medals, mocking grins and deadly glares all leveled at the presupposing geek who dared to suggest that he had all the answers. He remembered his desperation – how his stomach clenched with fear, fear that they'd discard him as easily as his peers had, that he'd be thrown back out on the street with nothing but his books and his future broken in pieces at his feet. That this unbelievable discovery would be taken from him before he'd had a chance to study it, to understand it.

And then, in an instant, he'd stepped through the vertical pool and onto the sands of another world. Inside a pyramid, facing an alien with eyes that glowed and that had shattered his understanding of Earth's past as easily as he'd enslaved dark eyed natives who knew nothing of freedom. Energy weapons blazed trails of fire in the air, striking down newly found friends. And then he was confronting a man with nothing to live for - a man who would become his greatest friend. This man. Jack.

"Yeah."

The memories came easily now, not in bright, piercing shards disconnected from context. "Charlie, right? He's why I know you. You took that first mission to Abydos because you thought … it'd be suicide." Daniel stumbled over the last few words, frowning, unable to hide his embarrassment, his horror at so glibly re-opening the deep wounds in Jack's soul.

Jack flashed a grim smile. "Things change."

"Yeah, sorry," Daniel murmured, lowering his eyes and fidgeting with the zipper on his jacket. His mouth seemed filled with sand and dust as memories of Jack's pain and loss blanketed him, reminders of souls bared over too much alcohol, of silent trips to a spot on a lonely hillside under the tender branches of a white-barked birch. Charlie lay there, safe at last under the summer sun, under colorful sprays of spring flowers and deep layers of snow; eternally young, the last horrifying images of blood and death gradually giving way to the boy's bright smiles, boundless energy, and small hands wrapped tightly in his father's. Daniel remembered how, over the years, Jack's pinched, closely shuttered expression had relaxed into warm smiles and even, sometimes, laughter at the pull of his memories. And, he nodded to himself, how his friend's confidence, his offer of trust had allowed a long-haired scholar beneath the colonel's guard to share a grief and guilt that spanned worlds.

Before the SGC, before the team, before their missions to find allies and weapons and answers through the 'gate, before Oma or Shifu, the Tok'ra or the Replicators, before Sam or Teal'c or General Hammond – it had been the two of them. Daniel and Jack.

"You sure you're ready for this?"

Daniel heard the concern, the last murmur of doubt, and the slight pricking of uncertainty that sharpened the colonel's voice. He turned to face his friend's intense gaze, knowing even without a specific memory to draw on that Jack had been busy counting up all the ways the intricate plans and convoluted timetable of this mission could go horribly wrong. Revisiting the consequences of trusting a teammate who was perhaps able-bodied, but was far from in top form mentally. Who had been all too recently without memory of Jack's name.

Colonel Jack O'Neill had asked the same question long years ago.

'Are you sure you're ready for this, Jackson?' The helmet had sat heavily on his head, the unfamiliar weapon tight against his thigh. He remembered glancing up at the narrowed eyes of the colonel and then fixing his gaze on the wonder of the sparkling, rippling event horizon. Jack's words and Daniel's own fierce need to know had stiffened his spine and propelled him through the wormhole to Abydos. And they continued to do so every single time he set his feet on the metal ramp of the 'gate room afterward.

"Yeah, well." His acceptance on Jack's team – then and now – was a decision born of necessity. Long ago the military man had met him with scathing disregard and open spite, never believing that Daniel could make a contribution. Now it was Daniel's friend who knew his value, but who wished him safe and guarded, far from this risk. "Despite what you say I don't think you'd be doing this if it wasn't worth doing."

Jack's smile was dry and a little bitter. "Well you obviously don't remember everything. You never used to follow my lead." He sat heavily on the bench behind them and fiddled with the ties of his boot as if waiting for Daniel's response.

Never? Daniel felt the truth and the lie wrapped up in each other. "I didn't?" But he had – he'd always followed Jack, even when he rushed out in front of him to use his best weapons – words – to smooth their way.

The colonel flashed a dark, disappointed grin and turned towards the door.

"Hey." Daniel called him back, unsettled, reaching out for the connection that had brought him back to his life here, in this place, at this man's side. "Um, I may not remember everything, but, uh, I remember enough." He remembered arguments and debates, anger and biting sarcasm. He remembered care and comfort, strong arms and steady hands. He remembered unfailing leadership, courage, and integrity. He remembered protection and protecting, give and take, being willing to kill or to die side by side. He remembered the first face he looked for when waking in pain, and finding the shoulder he needed whenever he stumbled. He remembered hurt and doubt and resentment, but never, never betrayal of the deep bonds and the profound trust at the heart of them.

He turned bright eyes towards his friend's. Daniel remembered.

Jack looked him over carefully and then his stern face relaxed into an open, blazing smile. "Good."

End.
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